Plum & Spilt Milk London review: paying homage to the romance of the railways
Located in the Great Northern Hotel, this swanky restaurant is just a stone’s throw from King’s Cross station
If I ask you to picture a train station restaurant, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A soggy, anaemic-looking cheese and ham panini? A cup of pale, tepid tea served in a polystyrene cup? Pigeons swooping around you, keeping their beady eyes out for discarded tissues and undercooked chips dropped under sticky tables?
Now try and imagine the exact opposite - and you might come close to visualising Plum & Spilt Milk, a formidable yet stunning station restaurant a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of London’s King’s Cross station.
Up until my visit, the glamour of rail travel is something which had only existed in films to me (a cramped Friday evening train from Euston couldn’t be less luxurious). But stepping into the Great Northern Hotel - where Plum & Spilt Milk is located on the first floor - transported me straight into the worlds of Murder on the Orient Express, Brief Encounter and Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer - minus the gory fight scenes, of course. Named after the maroon and cream colours which adorned the dining carriage of the first Great Northern train line, Plum & Spilt Milk tastefully pays homage to the romance of the railway.
The restaurant’s interior is both modern and swanky; floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of the iconic St Pancras clock tower, more than 100 hand-blown glass lanterns dangle from the ceiling generating a warm amber light, and intimate, comfy seating booths provide a sense of privacy - as well as a generous social distance from other guests (very important in these “unprecedented” times).
After perusing a virtual menu, my dining companion and I opted to start with - Seaspiracy disciples, look away! - chalk stream trout (served with a cucumber and dill consomme and creme fraiche) and burrata with broad beans, artichoke, a rainbow of cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and pesto made from nasturtium plants. The fillet of trout was perfectly cooked - so soft it came apart with the touch of a fork - and the creamy burrata complemented by the sharp flavour of the pesto.
This course was washed down with a crisp Bacchus wine with notes of elderflower, apple and pear. As a general rule of thumb, you’re never normally meant to order the second cheapest wine on a menu, but this New Hall white was completely delicious. As Plum & Spilt Milk’s menu focuses on modern British cuisine with local, seasonal produce from around the British Isles, it felt fitting to drink a wine produced just a short train journey away in Essex, believe it or not.
For our main course, I went for lemon sole caught from Rye Bay in East Sussex with mussels from the River Teign in Devon, smoked garlic and seaweed butter, and sea aster (a colourful plant which grows in salt marshes and estuaries). The fish wasn’t filleted, but I enjoy working for my supper so didn’t mind tenderly removing the meat from the tiny bones. The tasty pea-green butter, which also contained the mussels, was poured over the fish like a pescatarian gravy.
My carnivore companion chose the West Country lamb, which was served pink and accompanied by grilled spring onions, capers and pine nuts. We shared a side of tenderstem broccoli (with a tangy shallot, lemon and garlic dressing) and the most deliciously, decadently salty rosemary fries I’ve ever tasted. We somehow found room for dessert - a rich chocolate mille feuille with creme fraiche for my friend and a Eton Mess for me which was slightly on the sweet side but a lovely palette cleanser nonetheless.
Plum & Spilt Milk is not cheap (starters and desserts are around £10 a head, with mains at £25) but when you’re in the space you can understand why. The restaurant oozes glamour; I wouldn’t have felt shocked to have spotted a suited-and-booted James Bond requesting a Vesper Martini at the bar. It feels like somewhere to get dressed up for, a “special treat” place - the perfect restaurant to celebrate a milestone birthday, promotion or engagement.
In my case, I wasn’t celebrating much other than the joy of restaurants being open again - and in the case of Plum & Spilt Milk, what a joy that truly was.
Plum & Spilt Milk, Great Northern Hotel, Pancras Rd, London N1C 4TB; gnhlondon.com